Story: Shops

Page 7. Drapers and haberdashers, pharmacies and confectioners

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Drapers and haberdashers

Drapers and haberdashers supplied the population with cloth and fabric. But they also sold much more – millinery or hats (worn by all in the early 1900s), hosiery, gloves and manchester (cotton sheets and towels, mostly produced in the English city of Manchester). A draper sold fabrics and sewing equipment. Silk mercers sold textiles, mainly silk. Haberdashers were specialists in sewing materials such as tapes, threads, lace, trimmings and buttons.

It was a time when many women made their own clothes or employed dressmakers to sew for them. Shop owners made regular buying trips to London where they would look for new products and organise deals with suppliers.

Pharmacies

Some of New Zealand’s first shops were pharmacies, which sold drugs, raw materials for folk cures, and patent medicines. C. D. Barraud’s shop in Te Aro was one of the first in Wellington. In the 1840s part of the shop was known as ‘The Pill Box’ – it had an octagonal shape and was a dispensary. Pharmacies also operated in Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland from the late 1840s and early 1850s. They sold other things such as paint, spices and stationery, and were essentially general stores-cum-pharmacies.

Patent medicines had to be imported and sold at low profit margins, so pharmacists preferred to make remedies themselves, which were often advertised as ‘our own formula’. Some pharmacists also worked as vets, dentists or opticians. From around 1900, when film photography became affordable, pharmacists sold film and developed photographs.

From the 1860s pharmacies improved their appearance, with imported fittings, carboys (large glass bottles), mirrors and mahogany fittings. Pharmacies largely looked like this until the 1930s when competition from grocers and department stores spelled the end of mahogany fittings and stock hidden in drawers, cupboards and back rooms. Pharmacies moved to open shelves and display stands. Open dispensaries were also introduced so customers could see the white-coated pharmacist make up the order. Many of these retailing approaches would be adopted by other shops in the decades to come.

Different kind of lollies

‘Lolly shops’ was slang for brothels in the early 1900s. Sex shops and tattoo shops were first established in lanes in rougher areas of cities – often near the wharves. In the 2000s they are found on main streets.

Confectioners

Confectioners sold sweets (lollies). They were often close to cinemas and did especially well prior to screenings and at intervals. Once refrigeration was introduced, ice cream was a major seller. Confectioners had long counters with many glass jars and compartments displaying the array of sweets – many of which were made on the premises. Near the cash register was a set of scales for weighing the goods.

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Shops - Drapers and haberdashers, pharmacies and confectioners', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/shops/page-7 (accessed 17 November 2019)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 11 Mar 2010, updated 16 Sep 2016